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Winter water woes await

Matt Zalaznick

Rains this week have put a negligible dent in the drought and the entire state is still in danger of serious water shortages this winter, says Dennis Gelvin, general manager of the Eagle Valley Water and Sanitation District.

Dry spells before the snow starts falling could wreak havoc on the valley’s water supply. Officials are urging people to continue conserving water through the end of ski season no matter how many powder days there might be this winter, Gelvin says.

“We, and a lot of other communities in Colorado, are going to have water supplies well below normal from now through the spring run-off season,” Gelvin says. “We’ll need everyone’s cooperation to provide water for fire protection and drinking.”



Water levels in the Eagle River have been dangerously low all summer. Recent rains have filled the rivers a bit, but if they drop again before the weather turns cold, creeks could freeze and that could be a big problem, Gelvin says.

“If streams drop back to where they were a few weeks ago, the creeks could just freeze up and we’ll have a hard time getting water into our treatment plants,” Gelvin says. “We know we’ll get relief during the run-off in March, but we could have some really lean spots in terms of water in the streams between now and then.”



Though it may be hard to believe, heavy snows –even blizzards – don’t mean residents should stop conserving water, he says.

“It’ll be a hard sell when it’s 20 below and there’s snow all over the ground to tell people there’s a water shortage,” Gelvin says. “We really need to do all we can to get people to reduce the amount of water they use during the winter.”

Watering restrictions remain in effect in the town of Vail.



Watering restrictions have been allowed to expire from Dowd Junction west. The expiration, however, doesn’t mean the water crisis is over.

Water officials just felt it would be too expensive to notify residents of an extension. They’re anticipating people will stop watering their lawns as frosts hit, Gelvin says.

And even though the restrictions have expired west of Dowd Junction, the water crisis is still as severe as it was in the middle of July, Gelvin says.

“I don’t want to give people the impression there’s no longer a need to conserve,” Gelvin says. “Over the course of the winter, we intend to shift the focus of our water conservation efforts to water used in the home.”

Perhaps most disturbing off all is that because of the unprecedented severity of the drought and the low stream flows, water officials are not sure how dire the water crisis could get this winter, Gelvin says.

Stream flows are historically lowest during January and February, he says.

“People think that when the snow falls, water will no longer be an issue,” Gelvin says. “People don’t understand that stream flows are at their lowest January and February. And since we don’t have any history to go on, we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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